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Changes to Child Maintenance Payments Calculations

Recent changes to the way child maintenance payments are calculated should result in greater accuracy and transparency.

The new Child Maintenance Order 2012*(“the new Order”)  – in force from 10 December 2012 – brings into force provisions of the Child Maintenance and Other Payments Act 2008 (“the 2008 Act”) for the purpose of applying new rules for calculating child support maintenance to certain types of cases. It also brings into force a number of other provisions for the purposes of all cases. The new calculation rules will be rolled out in stages, starting with applications relating to at least four qualifying children.

The 2008 Act significantly overhauled the rules for calculating the child maintenance obligation of a non-resident parent under the child support scheme, but the new Order finally looks to bring those amendments into force, in stages, starting from 10 December 2012.

The key change is to the calculation rules whereby a non-resident parent’s maintenance liability will now be based on gross, rather than net, income and on historic data provided directly by HM Revenue and Customs.  There will be a consequent shift in the applicable formulae applied to income as well as changes to the nil, flat and reduced rate maintenance liability.  New rules will also apply to changes in gross income over the course of a year

In addition to calculation issues, other changes will be implemented by the new Order, including:

  1. An non-resident parent will be entitled to a reduction in payment if the child stays overnight for one night per week or more. If the parties cannot agree the number of nights, the agency will statutorily assume it is one night per week.
  2. the secretary of state may accept part-payment in full and final satisfaction of maintenance liability, and write off any arrears that have accrued.
  3. the definition of ‘child’ is altered, so the maximum age for a child for the purposes of the Child Support Act 1991 is increased from 19 to 20.

It remains to be seen how quickly the current changes will be rolled out. No doubt this will depend on how well the agency manages to cope with the small number of test applications subject to the new calculation rules.

*Child Maintenance and Other Payments Act 2008 (Commencement No 10 and Transitional Provisions) Order 2012

Posted in: Family & Divorce

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